Minor League Report: Rangers rotations

Minor League Report: Rangers rotations

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With just over a week to go in Spring Training, the Rangers are starting to get a pretty good idea of what the Minor League starting rotations will look like to start the season.

Not all are set, but:

Triple-A Oklahoma: The RedHawks will have left-hander A.J. Murray and right-hander Doug Mathis. They are also waiting to see what happens with the fifth spot in the Major League rotation but the RedHawks are expected to have Eric Hurley in the rotation as well.

Double-A Frisco: Michael Schlact will be in the Roughriders rotation. It's a big year for him. Schlact was taken in the third round of the 2004 Draft out of Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler High School and was once ranked right up there with Hurley. But he was 5-7 with a 5.77 ERA in 21 starts at Class A Bakersfield and 3-3 with a 5.08 ERA at Double-A Frisco. He needs to get back on track.

He'll be joined by left-hander Michael Ballard, a 14th-round pick out of the University of Virginia who was 14-7 with a 4.50 ERA in Class A last year. Matt Harrison, the left-hander who was one of five players acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade, will start here as well.

Class A Bakersfield: This could be the most interesting rotation in the Rangers system. The Blaze should start out with left-handers Beau Jones and Zach Phillips and right-handers Tommy Hunter and Omar Poveda. Kasey Kiker, the Rangers' top pick from 2006, should also pitch here, although he may begin the season in extended Spring Training building up more arm strength.

All are highly regarded prospects. Hunter, the 54th overall player taken in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, has been particularly impressive since being drafted. Poveda is the leader of a future group of great young arms from the Dominican Republic.

Class A Clinton: The group should include Neftali Feliz, the hard-throwing right-hander who was also included in the Teixeira trade. Also watch left-hander Derek Holland, a draft-and-follow pitcher from Alabama.

He's No. 1: Hurley, the Rangers' No. 1 draft pick in 2004, starts for the Rangers on Saturday against the Mariners. Hurley appears headed for Oklahoma but is still hoping to win a spot with the Rangers. He has a 4.63 ERA this spring and opponents are hitting .205 off him.

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"I feel good they are giving me another start," Hurley said. "Now I have to go out and throw the ball well. I'm just going to pitch; I don't know what they're going to do. If I go out and throw the ball well, I can pitch anywhere."

Class of '07: The top three high school pitchers taken by the Rangers in the 2007 Draft will remain in Arizona. Blake Beavan, Michael Main and Neil Ramirez are all expected to start the season in extended spring. Main is sidelined with a stress fracture in his right rib cage but is expected to be pitching by the end of May.

Full season for Beltre: The Rangers will get an early indication of how good is outfielder Engel Beltre. He is just 18 years old but he's going to start the season in Class A Clinton.

He was one of three players acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the Eric Gagne trade and hit .310 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 22 games for the Arizona Rookie League Rangers.

"It will be challenge for him," farm director Scott Servais said.

He said it: "I don't think Feliz threw anything under 95 miles per hour." -- pitching coach Mark Connor after watching Feliz throw in the Prospect Game

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.